NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) - Facebook is launching a messaging app for kids under 12. It’s a bid to attract a new generation of users by a company struggling to lure youngsters from Snapchat. Yet it’s also a political gamble for the $500 billion social-networking site.
The firm founded and led by Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the new product on Monday. Intended for children as young as 6, the app has all sorts of features including video-chat functions and filters like cat ears and rainbows that would look familiar to anyone proficient at Snapchat.
Facebook is billing the stand-alone messaging app as a safe space for kids that allows them to connect with their friends while giving parents control. There is no advertising and users won’t automatically convert to Facebook once they hit the minimum user age of 13.
Meanwhile, regulators in the United States and in Europe are keeping increasingly close tabs on Facebook and other social-media platforms. Company executives have already testified in Congress about fake Russian ads that were placed on the network in an effort to sway the presidential election. In Europe, it faces a threat from a new European Union regulation that, from May 2018, will require companies to seek explicit consent from consumers before using their personal data. At a time when the company’s operations are under a microscope, chasing after elementary-school kids will inevitably invite even closer scrutiny.
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